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If you have a garden area that’s hard to reach with a rototiller or even a shovel, consider sheet composting (sometimes called no-till or lasagna gardening). For example, I had a narrow plot sandwiched between a rock wall and a stone pathway. Instead of ripping up the whole area just to turn over the sod, I chose sheet composting so I could work around the existing structures.
There are numerous ways to do this, but these steps worked well for me:
1. Measure the area, or trace it onto paper.
2. Cut sections of cardboard in the shape of the garden plot and place them directly on top of the sod.
3. Cover with a layer (two to three inches) of soil mixed with compost.
4. Layer newspaper (four to five sheets thick) on top of the soil.
5. Add a layer of grass clippings and leaves.
6. Add one more layer of soil.
7. Top with mulch. (I used shredded bark, but leaf mulch or marsh hay work well, too.)
You can wait to let the layers settle (some recommend waiting a season) or you can plant right away. I planted hardy Lamium as a ground cover the same season. It spread quickly to surround the walkway, and it has been a pleasant garden focal point ever since.
Beth Stetenfeld is a McFarland-based editor, writer and creator of the gardening blog PlantPostings.com.